Pre-1825  British Locomotives


The following material on Pre-1825  British locomotives is courtesy of Locos in Profile, a web site offering full-color prints of British Locomotives ( This material was downloaded May, 2008. Check the web site for possible updates.



Part 1: 1802 – 1808 Trevithick


Richard Trevithick Early Experiments


Richard Trevithick was an advocate of the ‘dangerous’ practice of using high-pressure steam. At this time a pressure of only a few pounds per square inch above that of the atmosphere, coupled with a condenser to create the vacuum on the other side of the piston, was employed in the ponderous pumping and mill engines manufactured by Boulton and Watt. Trevithick used high-pressure to create compact steam engines, which he soon realised could be used to power a self-propelled vehicle. The big advantage of using high-pressure steam was that you could dispense with the bulky condenser.


At the pressure Trevithick favoured, 50psi (pounds per square inch), you could expect four times the power compared with a piston of the same size used in an atmospheric steam engine. Trevithick used a strong cast iron boiler, which was utilised as a structural member. He then placed the cylinder inside it, the great advantage of this being that it kept the cylinder hot and so did not have to waste steam re-heating the cylinder with every power stroke. In 1803 he turned the exhaust steam up the chimney to create a blast effect. He also replenished his boilers with heated feed water by means of a pump. In 1804 he arranged the valves on his engines to give an early cut-off and so used the steam expansively.


Trevithick made some experimental model self-propelled vehicles incorporating the above ideas. He then made the famous full-sized road vehicle, which made the epic journey up Camborne Hill on Christmas Eve 1801, but the bad state of the roads at this time was not conducive to powered road vehicles.


What Trevithick needed was a smooth surface and this could be found on the industrial tramways and railways. These were being operated by either gravity, ropes or horses. As they were private routes they offered an ideal environment to test a new form of traction, especially as the early ones discharged their exhaust steam straight to the atmosphere, so were noisy and likely to spook the horses on a public highway


1812 Richard Trevithick  Coalbrookdale Locomotive


The pioneering ironworks at Coalbrookdale was the ideal place to build and try out his first rail locomotive. Another advantage was that it was probably the first railway to be equipped with iron rails.


Although records of this locomotive are scarce it is assumed that it was similar to the drawing held by the Science Museum, London, which is shown below. This drawing shows that this locomotive had a cylinder of 4.5 in. diameter and a stroke of 3 ft. and was designed for a tramway with a gauge of 3ft.


Drawing of Trevithick’s Coalbrookdale Locomotive.


If the locomotive was built as shown in the drawing it would have been very dangerous to fire, on the move as the piston-rod, guide-bars and cross-head are at the same end and directly above the furnace door (perhaps the idea was that the cylinder and flue could be withdrawn from the boiler in one piece for easier cleaning?). This arrangement is most impracticable even on a stationary engine.




Whatever the layout of the locomotive it did not run for long, as there was an accident followed by an enquiry. The whole episode was hushed-up and the locomotive converted into a stationary engine.


A replica of this locomotive, based on the drawing, has been built and can be seen at Blist Hill Museum, Ironbridge, Shropshire


1804  Richard Trevithick  Pen-y-Darren Locomotive


Trevithick convinced Samuel Homfray, the owner of the Pen-y-Darren ironworks near Dowlais, South Wales, that a steam locomotive was a practical alternative to horses. This led to Homfray betting Richard Crawshay, ironmaster of neighbouring Cyfarthfa Iron Works, 500 guineas (£525) that a steam locomotive could haul 10 tons of iron over the 9 miles of the Pen-y-Darren tramway to Abercynon where the iron was transferred to barges. The tramway was laid with rails of L-shaped plates, with the flange on the inside, these guided wagons with ordinary non-flanged wheels.


The locomotive designed by Trevithick weighed 5tons, including the water, and it is assumed to have had a horizontal cylinder positioned inside a wrought iron boiler. The piston-rod, guide-bars and cross-head were at the opposite end to the furnace door. This enabling it to be fired while on the move from an attached wagon. The firebox was connected to the chimney via a return ‘U’ shaped flue to get a larger heating surface (i.e. the firebox and chimney were at the same end with the flue running through the boiler to the other end then back to the chimney).


Drawing of Trevithick’s Pen-y-Darren Locomotive produced by E.W. Twining.


This was mounted on four wheels, which were attached directly onto the boiler. The single cylinder was 8.25inches in diameter and had a stroke of 4ft. 6 in. Connecting rods ran down either side of the boiler to a crankshaft with a large flywheel on one side, which helped the piston over the dead point, and had gears on the other side, which drove the wheels.


Dr. Dionysius Lardner stated in his book ‘The Steam Engine’ (1840) that the cogs only drove the rear wheels, which were fixed to the axle. This arrangement is shown in the drawing of the locomotive by E.W. Twining (above). The replica of Pen-y-Darren locomotive has been built with both front and rear wheels driven as on the Wylam locomotive (see picture below).


The replica of Trevithick’s Pen-y-Darren Locomotive at Railfest 2004.

Picture courtesy of Stephen Dawson's photo site.


The exhaust steam was directed up the chimney, which Trevithick had realised would draw air through the fire making it burn hotter when it was most needed to create more steam to replace that just used.


Forcing air through a fire to make it hotter was nothing new as metalworkers have used bellows in their furnaces for centuries, so the advantages of this must of been obvious to Trevithick. The surprising thing is that Trevithick did not patent this invention, which later when the exit was restricted became known as the blast-pipe.


The pipe carrying the exhaust steam passed through a jacket in which the feed water circulated thereby heating the water before it was pumped into the boiler.


Homfray won his bet on 21st February 1804 with the locomotive hauling 25tons plus 70 passengers, who had climbed on the wagons to join in the fun, at 5mph and climbing gradients of 1 in 36. Homfray never received the wager. Trevithick wrote that he thought it could haul loads of 40tons. This locomotive proved that a smooth wheel running on smooth rails was a practical proposition.


Unfortunately the weight of the Locomotive, which had no form of suspension, proved too much for the plate-way as it continuously broke the iron rails and so could not be put to permanent use. It was probably converted into a stationary engine.


1805 Richard Trevithick Gateshead / Wylam Colliery Locomotive


Reports of Richard Trevithick’s Pen-y-Darren locomotive came to the attention of Christopher Blackett the propriety of Wylam Colliery (Newcastle), who ordered a locomotive from Trevithick. This was built at Whinfield’s Foundry, Pipewellgate, Gateshead owned by Trevithick’s agent for the North East John Whinfield. John Steele who had worked on the building of the locomotive at Pen-y-Darren supervised the construction.


Plans of Trevithick’s locomotive for Wylam Colliery held by the Science Museum, London.


This was designed to be lighter (4.5tons) than the Pen-y-Darren locomotive to try and avoid the problem with broken rails. The cylinder was 7 in. in diameter with a 36 in. stroke.


The drawing shows the locomotive with flanged wheels for use with edge rails. Wylam's waggonway was laid with wooden edge rails to a gauge of 5 ft., unique for the North East. It was re-laid as an iron plate-way, retaining the same gauge, in 1808. This was inspired by a local landowner, William Thomas, who was promoting the idea of a plate-way from Newcastle to Carlisle, with Wylam forming a part.


Trials were carried out at the works, but Blackett did not accept the locomotive and it was converted into a blower for the foundry.


1805 Richard Trevithick  Second Wylam Locomotive?


The Science Museum has a plan showing a Trevithick style locomotive similar to the above design but with a shorter boiler and larger wheels. The gearing is 3:2 instead of 2:1 used on the built locomotive. As the gauge of this locomotive is 5 feet, it would imply that it was designed for use at Wylam.


This drawing could have been an alternative design to the one built, but Trevithick himself mentions in January 1805 that he expected to visit Newcastle soon to see some of his ‘travelling engines’. There is also a report that William Chapman had such a locomotive, fitted with roughened wheels as stated in the Trevithick and Vivian Patent of 1802, stored at his ropeworks in Tyneside.


1808 Richard Trevithick Euston Locomotive Catch-Me-Who-Can


Richard Trevithick seems to have given up the idea of producing steam locomotives until persuaded by his friend, a wealthy Cornish landowner, Davis Giddy to have another go. This locomotive was built to try and get the general public interest in this new form of transport. It was run on a purpose built circular track laid at Euston, London, pulling an open four-wheeled carriage. This took place between 8th July and 18th September 1808 with tickets costing one shilling (5 pence).


Thomas Rowlandson’s watercolour of ‘Catch-Me-Who-Can’ at Euston, London.


This locomotive was a lot smaller than the others and differed in having the single cylinder positioned vertically, the pistons was connected to a transverse beam with the connecting rods working down both sides and were attached directly to the rear wheels. The front wheels being used just to support the front of the locomotive. Using the modern Whyte notation it was a 2-2-0. It is reported to have reached speeds of 12mph.


What happened to this locomotive is a matter of debate. One theory is that it has ended up in the Science Museum, London. A Trevithick engine was discovered on a scrap heap in the goods yard of Hereford station in 1882 and this was rescued by Frances Webb of the London & North Western Railway and taken to the Locomotive Works at Crewe. Here it was reconditioned and presented to the museum in 1896.


The Trevithick engine rescued by Francis Webb photographed in the Paint Shop at Crew.


‘Hazeldine & Co of Bridgenorth’ built this engine for Trevithick in 1806. It certainly has a vertical internal cylinder and the general layout looks like the locomotive in the watercolour by Rowlandson but the stationary engines Trevithick supplied were also constructed to this layout. The boiler shell is 56 inches long with a diameter of 45 inches. It has a cylinder of 6.37inches in diameter by 30.5inch stroke. I will duck the issue and leave it up to you to decide if this was used for Catch-Me-Who-Can!




Part 2: 1812 – 1813 Blenkinsop


1812 Matthew Murray / John Blenkinsop Middleton Colliery, Rack Locomotives Prince Regent, Salamanca, Lord Wellington and Marquis Wellington?


The Napoleonic War was having a serious effect on the cost of fodder for horses and therefore pushing up the price of haulage. John Blenkinsop the manager of Middleton Colliery, Leeds decided to try using steam locomotives, which used a fuel readily available on site, to haul the coal from the colliery by railway into Leeds. He instructed Matthew Murray (1765-1826) of Fenton, Murray and Wood based in Water Lane, Leeds to construct a locomotive. By this time, Murray's company was challenging Boulton & Watt for the position of the leading producer of steam engines in Britain.


As it was still doubted that sufficient adhesion could be obtained from using smooth wheels on smooth rails to haul a useful load these locomotives were designed with a cogwheel (pinion), which engaged with special rails cast with teeth (rack) along the edge. Also it might have been decided that a rack system would be required as these locomotives were to be made as light as possible, to avoid the problems caused by Trevithick’s locomotives which because of their weight damaged the track and therefore would not been able to haul the loads required just using adhesion.


Another possible reason may have been that Blenkinsop had patented the rack and pinion system (10th April 1811) and persuaded the colliery owners that this was the best system to apply and so make some money from the patent rights! The decision to adopt this system would not have been taken lightly due to the cost of relaying the railway with the special rack rails. Whatever the actual reason it was undoubtedly a success as these locomotives were recorded hauling loads of 90 tons at 4 miles per hour.


Watercolour by George. Walker, published in 'The Costume of Yorkshire' in 1814, showing Middleton Colliery.


The first locomotive built appeared in public on 24th June 1812. The boiler was of cast iron, oval in section, working at 55lb. per sq. in. The cylinders are believed to be 9 in diameter with a stoke of 22 in. Subsequent locomotive had the cylinder diameter reduced to 8in. The wheels were 3 ft. diameter and the cog wheels 3ft 2 in. It is thought to have been named Prince Regent.


There seems to have been a formal inauguration of steam traction on 12th August 1812 when a second locomotive was introduced. It was named Salamanca after the battle fought near the Spanish University city on 22nd July 1812 in which the then Earl of Wellington defeated the French Marshal Auguste Marmont.


Two further locomotives were built to work another portion of the railway. The first was named Lord Wellington and was delivered on 4th August 1813. The fourth locomotive was delivered on 23rd November 1814 and seems to have been known as Marquis Wellington. Confusion has arisen over these names and they may have been only popular appellations.


The colliery was visited by Grand Duke Nicholas, later Tsar of Russia, who took a keen interest in the locomotives. The manufacturers later sent him a model.


The locomotives had two vertical cylinders set into the boiler fore-and-aft along the centreline. These drove crosshead beams with connecting rods going down each side of the boiler to cranks on cross-shafts which drove gears between the frames, below the centreline of the boiler, these in-turn drove another cross-shaft connected to the drive cog on the left hand side outside the frame. The cranks for each cylinder were set at 90 degrees to each other, which ensured the locomotive would always start, as at least one cylinder would always be on a power stroke when the engine was stopped. This arrangement of having at least two cylinders set 90 degrees apart became standard for all future locomotives.


The boilers had a single straight-through flue with the exhaust passing to the atmosphere via a silencer and exhaust pipe between the cylinders. This arrangement was later changed with the exhaust steam the steam being ejected up the chimney. The boiler was set on two longitudinal wooden baulks to which were fixed the four carrying wheels and the bearings for the cross-shafts. Even though there was no suspension the use of wooden baulks would have given some flexibility and so avoid some of the jarring and reduced breakages.



Drawing of one of Blenkinsop's Locomotives published in the Bulletin de la Societe d'Encouragement d'Industrie in 1815.


Some contemporary drawings and illustrations of these locomotives show them with cogwheels (pinions) on both sides of the locomotive although the rack was on one side only! It is impossible to have a rack on both sides if you have to negotiate curves. Blenkinsop would have liked to have placed the rack between the rails but had to settle with having them on one side to avoid interfering with the horses, which were still in use. The problem of having the rack on just one side is that the power is not transmitted evenly and must lead to at least the cross shafts and gears twisting under load causing noise and ware. This is why modern versions of the rack and pinion system, used nowadays only on railways with very steep gradients, have the rack in the centre of the track.


These illustrations are obviously wrong, but it would have been a good idea to construct them this way to enable the locomotives to be turned from time-to-time to even out the wear. The locomotives cost £380 each, which included a royalty of £30 to Trevithick for his patent rights. Trevithick’s influence in the design is evident in the use of cocks to distribute the steam instead of using the more modern slide valves, which had been patented by Matthew Murray (28th June 1802).


Although these locomotives were fairly expensive to use and heavy wear took place between the driving gear wheel and rack they were the first commercially successful steam locomotives produced; four of them had replaced 50 horses and 200 men! They continued to work for many years, the last exploding in 1834. By this time it had been proved that a rack and pinion system was only needed when exceptional gradients were required so the rack system was replaced with standard edge rails.



1813 Matthew Murray / John Blenkinsop Orrell Colliery, Three Rack Locomotives


Horses were generally used to haul the wagons on these early industrial railways, with self acting inclines being used where possible. Stationary steam engines were used when loaded wagons had to be hauled up a steep incline. Haulage on inclines was by means of ropes or chains. William Chapman a leading civil engineer, who was also a keen mechanical engineer and had patented a successful rope-making machine, took the stationary steam engine and chain method of haulage and reversed it. In December 1812 he took out a patent (paid for by John Buddle) for a chain locomotive and bogies.


The Butterley Company of Derbyshire built a six wheel, bogie, chain locomotive. This had a grooved capstan mounted centrally under the boiler. It was completed in August 1813 and sent to Heaton Colliery (Newcastle) where John Buddle was a partner and viewer. It was assembled by Butterley’s fitter, Thomas Grice and was ready for trials by October.


A chain was stretched out along the railway fixed it at both ends. This was then passed once around the capstan under the locomotive and as the capstan rotated it pulled the locomotive along the railway. This turned out to be extremely clumsy but the experiments continued throughout 1814 and into 1815 when disastrous flooding closed the colliery in that May. During this time it is thought that the locomotive was sent to the Lambton waggonway for a demonstration. The locomotive finished its life as a pumping and winding engine.


1813 William & Edward Chapman  Lambton Chain Locomotive


Schematic Drawing of Bruntons Mechanical Traveller.


The locomotive worked as follows. A horizontal cylinder is connected to one of the legs at the knee. When the piston is driven back, it presses the leg against the ground, and thus propels the engine forward. As the engine advances, the leg straightens and as the limit of the step is reached it causes the arm above to rise; this pulls a cord, which lifts the foot from the ground. The action of the other leg is similar, but the motion is derived from the first leg not the cylinder. A rod attached above the knee of the first leg is connected to a toothed rack. This rotates a cogwheel on the centreline of the boiler, which operates a rack on the other side with a rod from this attached to the second leg. When the piston is driven out and pushes the first leg, the left rack is drawn backward, turning the cogwheel, which pulls the right rack forward, and operates on the second leg in the same way as the piston-rod does on the first one, and thus the legs take alternate steps, and walks the engine forward.


The locomotive was set to work on the plateway that connected the Crich limeworks, owned by the Butterley Company, to the Cromford Canal at Amber Wharf. The plateway was 1.25 miles long with a gradient of 1 in 50 towards the canal. This experimental locomotive worked well but showed some changes needed to be made.






Part 3: 1813 – 1814 Hedley

1813 William Hedley  Wylam Colliery Experimental Locomotive


It had been decided to again experiment with a steam locomotive at Wylam Colliery (Newcastle) so the proprietor, Christopher Blackett, contacted Richard Trevithick but he decline to supply a locomotive as he was to busy.


Blackett then instructed William Hedley the superintendent of Wylam Colliery, to construct one. The idea of using a rack and pinion system was looked at, but to convert the 5 miles, then laid as a plate-way, from Wylam Colliery to the coal staithes on the Tyne, to a rack-rail system would have cost £8,000.


Hedley set out by experiment in 1813 to find out once-and-for-all if sufficient adhesion was available using a smooth wheel on a smooth rail. To do this he constructed a carriage operated by four men, two each side standing on stages suspended from the frame of the carriage. Each man turned a handle, which was connected by a cross shaft to the one on the handle on the other side. A gear was set on this cross shaft which engaged with a gear set on the wheel axle and so turned the wheels and moved the carriage along the plate-way. To make sure that the power was delivered evenly to all wheels at the same time, another gear was placed centrally to engage with the ones on the handle cross-shafts, so coupling the wheels.


He loaded this carriage with known weights ranging from two to six tons then attached more and more loaded coal wagons until the wheels of this man powered carriage slipped round. This experiment proved conclusively that just the friction available from the driving wheels of a locomotive was sufficient to haul a viable train of loaded wagons.


After these successful trials the carriage was converted to an experimental locomotive by mounting a cast iron boiler, with a single straight flue, this was fitted with only one cylinder connected to a flywheel. Was this based on or used parts from the locomotive supplied by Trevithick? This was not a complete success and in Hedley’s own words ‘It went badly, the obvious defect being want of steam’.


It was probably this machine that was seen by George Stephenson and after inspecting it declared he could make a better one himself!


1813 William Hedley  Wylam Colliery Puffing Billy


From the results of the experiments carried out, William Hedley set about designing his second locomotive. Jonathan Foster, who was the engine-wright at Wylam Colliery, carried out its construction.


It differed from previous locomotives by having its two cylinders positioned vertical at the back and outside the boiler, but to keep them hot they were provided with steam jackets. The drive from each cylinder was delivered via ‘grasshopper’ beams running fore-and-aft (the piston rod being connected to one end of the beam via a parallel motion the other end rotating around a fixed bearing). The connecting rods were positioned near the centre of the beam driving down on cranks attached to a cross-shaft running under the boiler to a central cog, as on Blenkinsop’s locomotives, here it drove through intermediate gears to gears fixed to the driving wheel axles, all wheels being driven.

Drawing showing the locomotives after convertion to an eight wheeler. Taken from Wood's Treatise on Rail Roads 1825.


The boiler was of wrought iron with a return flue was used to increase the steaming capacity, a fault on the experimental locomotive. The valves were operated by tappets on valve rods hanging from the beams with the exhaust going to a blast pipe in the chimney. A tender was attached to the front (chimney/firebox end) to carry the locomotives essentials for life (water and coal) and from this the fireman could attend the fire. The driver travelled on a footplate at the other end. This locomotive probably incorporated parts from the previous experimental locomotive.


The locomotive started out on four flangeless wheels but the usual problem of broken tram-plates caused it to be altered to an eight wheeler. In 1825 the plate-way was re-laid with stronger edge rails so the locomotive returned to four wheels except this time they were flanged.

Photograph showing Puffing Billy in the last years of its working life.


The locomotive became known as Puffing Billy and regular worked trains of 50tons at between 4 and 5mph for 48years, although it was extensively modified throughout its working life. The locomotive was lent to the Patent Office Museum, London (the forerunner of the Science Museum) in 1862 and it was only after three years of acrimonious letters that Christopher Blackett agreed to part with it for £40 as he said ‘It could still do useful work’. Happily Puffing Billy has the honour of being the oldest preserved locomotive in the world and is on permanent display in the Science Museum London.


1814 William Hedley  Wylam Colliery Wylam Dilly and Lady Mary


Two further locomotives followed Puffing Billy, although being of similar design each succeeding locomotive was an improvement on the last. They were named Wylam Dilly and Lady Mary. These went through the same conversion to eight wheels and then back to four again and like Puffing Billy were extensively modified.


Illustration of a locomotive at Wylam Colliery.


Credit for Hedley’s locomotives has also been claimed on behalf of Timothy Hackworth who was, at the time of their construction, the foreman smith at Wylam.


Wylam Dilly is preserved at the Royal Scottish Museum.



Part 4: 1814 – 1816 Stephenson (1)


1814 George Stephenson  Killingworth Colliery Geared Locomotive My Lord and Blucher


In 1803, when aged 22, George Stephenson was appointed as the Superintendent Engineer at Killingworth Colliery which was part of the Grand Alliance Company (the company had been formed to protect the mining interests of powerful owners around Durham). In 1813 his responsibility was extended to cover all of the ‘Grand Allies’ collieries.


Stephenson persuaded Sir Thomas Liddle, later Lord Ravensworth, that the colliery would benefit from the use of steam locomotives and in 1814 he was allowed to construct his first locomotive. It had two cylinders 8 inches in diameter with a stroke of 24 inches. The boiler was 34 inches in diameter and 8 feet long with a single fire tube of 20 inches diameter passing through it. This gave less heating surface than a return flue but was cheaper and easier to construct. The cylinders were placed vertically along the centreline of the boiler like Blenkinsop's locomotives. The exhaust steam was released straight to the atmosphere.


The pistons drove cross beams that worked the connecting rods and these operated cranks, which drove the wheels via gears as on Hedley's locomotives. The cross beams were held in place by guides attached to the top of the cylinders and braced to keep them in position. This ensured the piston was kept in a vertical alignment. The locomotive was placed on four flanged wheels without springs. To begin with grooved rims were fitteded to the rear driving wheels and the front wheels of the wagon carrying the coal and water, and were connected together by an endless chain with the idea of improving traction.


Drawing showing the gear drive of George Stephenson's first locomotive. Taken from Wood's Treatise on Rail Roads 1825.


The locomotive was tried on the Killingworth Colliery Railway on 27th July 1814 where it was placed on a section of edge rail and ascended a slope of 1 in 450 pulling eight loaded wagons weighing around 30 tons at a speed of four miles an hour. The use of two cylinders gave a smooth motion, remedying the problems caused by using a single cylinder and flywheel. The locomotive went into service at the colliery and it was soon discovered that it did not need the grooved rims on the wheels to carry out its work.


The drive through cranks and gears gave a lot of problems, especially when they became worn, causing jerkiness and a great deal of noise.


This was the first locomotive to use smooth flanged wheels with an edge rail and showed that sufficient adhesion could be obtained using this method. Even though it gave less friction than using a flanged plate rail where contact was made with the side of the wheel as well as the rim.


This locomotive was named My Lord after one of the partners, Lord Strathmore. It is possible that another geared locomotive was constructed later in the year, and possible named Blucher after the commander of the Prussian Army at the Battle of Waterloo.


1814 William Brunton  Newbottle Mechanical Traveller


After the success of experimental mechanical traveller locomotive on the Crich tramway Brunton had built at his own expense another ‘horse engine’, which was heavier at five tons and probably had two cylinders. The cost was also twice that of the Crich locomotive at £540. This locomotive was sent to the Newbottle Colliery, Wearside, where Thomas Grice assembled it in October 1814. It worked for the rest of 1814 and 1815 achieving a rate of 2.5 miles per hour and climbing a gradient of 1 in 36.


The Engine received a new larger boiler after it was shown that restricting the locomotive to 5 tons was unnecessary and the extra weight would help prevent the locomotive from being lifted off the rails when in operation. Unfortunately on July 31st, it’s first outing with the new boiler, it blew up while surrounded by a large crowd who had come to see the locomotive in action. The boiler was overloaded by the driver through over enthusiasm. The explosion killed a dozen people and injuring several others. This was the first major railway disaster. The locomotive was never repaired as it had become obvious that it was not a practical solution to the adhesion problem.


1815 George Stephenson / Ralph Dodds  Killingworth Colliery Direct Drive Locomotive


To overcome the problem of using gear wheels to transmit the drive to the locomotive wheels George Stephenson together with Ralph Dodds, who was the Viewer at Killingworth Colliery, took out a patent for a method of driving the wheels using pins attached to the spokes to act as cranks (28th February 1815). The lower end of the driving rod was connected to the pin using a ball and socket joint.


Drawing showing Dodds and Stephenson's patent for direct drive and coupling wheels to ensure the cranks were kept 90 degrees apart.


The patent showed two methods of keeping the wheels at the same angle to each other. The first involved using cranked axles with rods connecting them. This was too advanced for the technology of the time as a cranked axle could not be made that would stand up to the constant jarring and forces applied to it in normal working conditions. The second way involved mounting a toothed wheel at the centre of each axle connected by an endless chain.


A locomotive similar in design to the geared locomotives but incorporating direct drive was constructed at Killingworth and tried on 6th March 1815. It worked well and was set to work.


1815 William Chapman / John Buddle Wallsend, Washington and Hetton Locomotive Steam Elephant


William Chapman designed a further locomotive with John Buddle who was by this time manager and viewer for the Wallsend Colliery at Newcastle upon Tyne. This was to a more orthodox design consisting of the now normal practice of having two cylinders positioned along, and let into, the boiler. These were 9 inches by 24 inches in diameter and were fitted with slide valves. The pistons drove crossbeams with connecting rods connected to cranks on each side, these drove through reduction gears, with a ratio of 2:1, to the three axles. This would give a top speed of about 4 to 4.5 mph. Adjustments were made by means of the tentering gear, fitted to maintain perfect meshing of the gears and so reduce the grinding associated with this form of drive. The parts for this locomotive were manufactured by Hawks of Gateshead.


The water for the boiler was pre-heated before it was pumped into the boiler in a jacket placed around the bottom of the chimney. Doing this not only saved fuel but also stopped the problems caused by pumping cold water straight into a hot boiler. The exhaust steam was emitted up the chimney.




Left) Part of the painting of the Steam Elephant found in a local school. Right) The replica at Beamish, March 21st 2002, when it was unveiled to the public.


This locomotive worked at Wallsend, at this time it was laid with wooden rails which caused problems, so in 1816 it was decided to try it at Washington but the wooden rails used here also caused binding problems so it was laid up. After the Wallsend railway had been relayed with Losh’s patent iron rails the locomotive returned to Wallsend.


The locomotive was rebuilt with a larger boiler and the cylinders were moved above the wheels so direct drive via crankpins on the wheels could be employed. The gears between the frames were retained as a means of coupling the wheels. This rebuilding, which increased the weight from 7.5 tons to 9 tons, could have taken place soon after the locomotive returned to Wallsend. It then seems to have worked for many years and contemporary reports imply that there may have been more than one ‘Steam Elephant’ at work at Wallsend.


After Robert Stephenson, George’s brother not his son, was dismissed from Hetton Colliery he was replaced by Joseph Smith as Company Engineer. Joseph Smith had been responsible for the re-building of the Chapman / Buddle engine at Heaton and also built Buddle’s Rainton locomotive. It seems likely that he bought a Wallsend locomotive to Hetton where it worked for ten years before it disappeared from history. While there it was probably named Fox.


The existence of a Chapman / Buddle locomotive only came to light when a watercolour sketch came to light and was exhibited in 1965. An old lady who had a detailed oil painting based on this watercolour visited the exhibition. Later she gave this to a local school where it remained until retrieved by Beamish Museum in 1995. A piece of text written by Stephen Oliver in 1834 has also come to light ‘The great coalfield of Newcastle appears likely to be exhausted within two hundred years. Shares in railway companies will then be at an awful discount and steam elephants will inevitably perish for want of food!’


A full-size, working replica of this locomotive has been constructed and can be seem at Beamish Open Air Museum. The staff using contemporary illustrations, the painting, and the original account book for the building of the engine, produced a set of engineering drawings and, in October 1999, started the task of building The Elephant. Much of the construction was done in the North of England, with the final construction and boiler testing taking place at Ross on Wye.


1816 John Blenkinsop / Krigar  Chorzow Rack Locomotive


In 1814/5 two Prussian engineers, Eckhardt and Krigar, visited England and saw the Blenkinsop rack locomotives working at Leeds and Newcastle. On his return Krigar, who was the Inspector at the Royal Ironworks in Berlin, set about building a locomotive for the ironworks at Chorzow – then the most important in Europe.


This locomotive was based on the Blenkinsop concept, having two cylinders let into the boiler with the drive transferred from the connecting rods by cranks to gears between the frames. These drove an axle to which was attached a pinion gear positioned on the outside of the locomotive. However it was a lot smaller than the English ones, having a cast iron boiler only 2 metres long with a diameter of 63 cm. The two cylinders were 5.5 inches in diameter with a stroke of a little over 12 inches. This was mounted on a wooden chassis with four wheels. The exhaust steam went to straight to the atmosphere via a separate exhaust pipe, not up the chimney.


The locomotive was finished on 9th July 1816 and the public was admitted to view it for a fee. It was sent to Gliwice where it arrived on 23rd October 1816 there it was discovered that it had been constructed to the gauge used on the underground tramways in the area. This was 1.5 inches narrower than the one used in the ironworks. Trials took place in 1816 but defects were found including leakages from the boiler and cylinders, suggesting poor workmanship.


The trials showed that the locomotive was underpowered and it was decided to fit it with larger cylinders 10.5 inches in diameter. It is not known if this was carried out as it was not put to use on the tramway but converted to a stationary water-pumping engine.


1816 George Stephenson / William Losh  Killingworth Colliery Steam Suspension Locomotives


The railways on which these early steam locomotives operated were suffering from the weight and forces exerted upon them. So George Stephenson in collaboration with William Losh came up with different ways of fixing and jointing the iron rails to avoid dips occurring. This would enable the track to stand up to the banging and jarring metered out by these heavy machines. The construction of the wheels was changed from cast iron to much stronger wrought iron.



Drawing showing Losh and Stephenson's patent for track wheels and steam suspension.


The obvious way to make sure the weight of the locomotive was carried evenly between the wheels was to give it some form of suspension. This also had the advantage of ensuring that traction was available from all the driving wheels by making sure they were sitting correctly on the rails. Especially difficult to maintain if six wheels are used. Road vehicles had used springs for a long time but because on these early steam locomotives the drive came from above if the wheels were sprung it would bounce the locomotive. What was needed was a form of suspension that included a form of damper.

Diagram of the steam suspension system.


The solution Stephenson and Losh came up with was to place a cylinder on each side of the boiler above each axle; this was connected to the boiler and frame by flanges. The top of each cylinder entered the water space of the boiler and was open at the top to allow the water to enter it. Inside the cylinder was a piston, packed to make it steam tight. A rod, passing through the frame, connected the piston to a bearing that rested on the axle. The axle was held in a guide to make sure it only moved vertically. This enabled the axle to take up any inequalities in the track, providing a relatively smooth running locomotive.


Another change made at this time was the introduction of the eccentric, which had been invented by Nicholas Wood the Viewer at Killingworth Colliery; this was used to operate the valves.


Wood's eccentric


A number of locomotives were constructed incorporating these features and used the usual layout of two cylinders, nine inches in diameter and lined with sheet copper, inserted vertical in the top of the boiler. The pistons worked vertically onto cast iron cross beams which worked connecting rods driving direct onto the wheels.


A valve operated by a handle controlled the amount of steam admitted to the cylinders and so regulated the speed. The steam was admitted alternatively to the top and bottom of the cylinders by sliding valves, which were driven by eccentrics attached to the axles. The exhaust steam was piped into the chimneys, which were turned upwards before they allowed the steam to exit


The later Killingworth locomotives with steam suspension, chain coupled wheels and valves operated by excentrics.


Nicholas Wood in A Practical Treatise on Rail-Roads published a description of the blast pipe in 1825 (an edited version is included below) long before the controversy of ‘who invented the blast pipe’.


‘On the earlier locomotives the steam was exhausted to the atmosphere, this created little noise, but it was found difficult to produce enough steam to keep the locomotive working. Stephenson decided to divert the steam into the chimney through pipes with upturned ends. This increased the velocity of the air through the fire and caused it to burn hotter. The big drawback of this was the noise caused by the escaping steam, which was amplified by the chimney acting like a trumpet.’


When larger flues were fitted to the Killingworth locomotives it was found this level of blast was not required, which led to the locomotives using less coal. The use of a strong blast causes a lot of unburnt fuel to be sucked up the chimney.



Part 5: 1817 – 1825 Stephenson (2)


1817 George StephensonKilmarnock & Troon 0-6-0 Locomotive The Duke


The tramway from Kilmarnock to Troon was built by the Duke of Portland to transport coal. It was opened on the 6th July 1812 using horses to pull the wagons. In 1813 the Duke had considered purchasing a Blenkinsop locomotive to haul the wagons over the line but it was a further three years before he decided to try a steam locomotive and then he ordered one from George Stephenson. The construction followed the standard Killingworth design but had six wheels.


A contemporary account by a local artist states that the outer pair of wheels were driven by connecting rods connected to crank pins set on the wheels, the connecting rods went up to cross beams which ‘played up and down like a pair of frame saws’. Gears were set on the centre of each axle with a chain connecting them. This kept the pistons at the correct angle to each other and transmitted the drive to the centre axle at the same time. This description shows that the locomotive followed the Stephenson and Losh specification. This locomotive was also fitted with steam suspension.


The locomotive was named The Duke. George’s brother, Robert, conducted trials over the line but it seems it only hauled ten tons at five miles per hour. The central cog occasionally caught high sections on the railway, which caused bending of the axles and connecting rods. This locomotive also appears to have suffered from the usual problem of being too heavy for the tramway and regularly broke the rails. As it proved itself to be no better than the horses it was discarded.


1818 John Blenkinsop / Krigar Saarland Rack Locomotive


 Even before the trials of the Chorzow locomotive it was decided to construct another larger Blenkinsop type locomotive with cylinders 10 inches in diameter. This was for use in the mining area of the Saarland. The locomotive was built at the Royal Ironworks in Berlin supervised by Krigar and sent for tests on 22nd September 1818 to the Geislautern ironworks between Saarbrucken and Saarlouis.


The locomotive arrived at the ironworks in pieces on 4th February 1819. The ironworks had to construct a rack railway for it to be tested on but delays occurred due to problems in making the rails match the sample sent from Berlin. Eventually the Mining Inspector, de Berghes, reported trials on 25th September when he was said it was working very unsatisfactorily.


On 31st October 1821, de Berghes summarised the experiments and described the locomotive and its defects. ‘The engine consists of a wooden chassis, carried on four wheels with concave wheel rims. A cast iron boiler with a tubular firebox created the steam for two 10 inch cylinders, one behind the other. The pistons drove two small gear wheels by means of crossheads and two connecting rods. They in turn drove a large gear wheel situated on one side of its own axle. This is situated close to the rail in order to mesh with the teeth on the rail and thus move the engine.’


He described the motion as being ‘unsteady, stumbling and precarious’ and the regulator as being complicated as it was constructed from a four-way cock, which did not allow starting and stopping to be controlled accurately. Another major defect was that the water reservoir, which consisted of a small bucket, quickly became empty.


De Berghes rectified the water reservoir defect and trials were organised for 22nd March 1822 when in front of officials the boiler was lit and with a pressure of 40 lbs per square inch the regulator was opened but it took several attempts to get it moving down a slopping track. When the regulator was altered it came to a stop and would only move a few revolutions with the help of four to six men. By this time steam was escaping from the joints and stuffing boxes and the pistons were binding. Although further attempts were made that day, and the next, they failed to get the locomotive to work. The officials expressed the opinion that the parts were badly made.


Krigar protested at the result of the trial so they were repeated but with the same results. The main reason stated was the poor fit of the pistons, which allowed large amounts of steam to pass, causing great steam wastage. The locomotive was abandoned at Saarbrucken until in 1834 it was suggested that it was dismantled. It was then decided to auction it off instead but the bids were too low. Eventually it was sold on 18th January 1837 for the equivalent of £46



1820 William Chapman / John Buddle Heaton Locomotive Heaton II


John Buddle was constructing a new line at Heaton and he brought the Lambton chain locomotive there for trials. This had been converted to use adhesion only and after some trials it was found that the major fault was a lack of steam production. Buddle had the locomotive rebuilt the boiler being lengthened by three feet and fitted with a single tube. The chassis was converted from eight wheels to four and mounted on a single frame. The wheels where coupled together by an endless chain.


All these changes produced a ‘new’ locomotive and this must be the large travelling engine mentioned by Losh to be working at Heaton. Losh said that this engine was fitted with springs by 1921, so becoming the first locomotive to have solid springing.


1822 John Buddle  Rainton locomotive


In 1819 John Buddle gave up his other colliery interests and became viewer, then manager to the important Londonderry collieries in Durham. In 1822 Buddle had an adhesion only locomotive built by Joseph Smith, he was the engine wright at Heaton and already worked for Buddle rebuilding his locomotive there.


This engine seems to have worked sporadically before being laid aside in 1825. In 1826 it underwent trials near Rainton when it broke rails and suffered from slipping. The following year it was demonstrated to the Duke of Wellington, when he visited the Rainton waggonway.


1822 John Buddle Wynyard Locomotive Crane


Lord Londonderry was building a large country house at Wynyard, north of Stockton and John Buddle was but in charge of getting the large amount of stone to the site by ship and then cart. To help move the stone around the site a temporary railway was used operated by a steam locomotive with a crane attached This railway does not seem to have been a success as it was transferred to Rainton in early 1825.


1822 George Stephenson  Hetton Colliery Locomotives Dart, Tallyho and Star


The Hetton Colliery in County Durham was a completely new colliery, which was begun on the 19th December 1819. From the start it was planned to use steam engines and steam locomotives to haul the coal from the pit to the newly erected staith on the banks of the Wear near Sunderland. George Stephenson laid out the railway, which was eight miles in length, but George’s brother Robert was made engineer put in charge of building it.


Drawing showing the pit head of Hetton Colliery with one of Stephenson's locomotives in the foreground.


The geography of the area meant that the route of the railway had to go over a hill 330 feet high and this section was worked by a combination of five self-acting inclines and two 60 hp stationary engines were used to haul the wagons up the others.


The flat sections were worked at the time of opening by three of George Stephenson's steam locomotives. These followed the Killingworth design having two cylinders sunk into the top of the boiler with cross beams driving connecting rods which drove down on the wheels by via crank pins. These locomotives had four wheels coupled by chain and had steam suspension. They were named Dart, Tallyho, and Star after local racehorses.


At the opening of the railway on 18th of November 1822 crowds of people came to see this new marvel. They witnessed the locomotives pulling seventeen loaded wagons, averaging sixty-four tons, at the rate of four miles an hour.


Experiments were carried out at the colliery in 1828 when it was worked out that the daily expense of two locomotives worked out at £2 - 9s - 2d compare to the £6 it would cost to use horses to perform the same amount of work. During these experiments two locomotives hauled 1,759 tons and 112 cwt. a distance of 2,541 yards.


One of Stephenson's locomotives showing later additions of plate springs and coupling rods.


The Hetton and Killingworth locomotives were much modified over the ensuing years being fitted with coupling rods and the steam suspension was replaced with steel plate springs when these could be manufactured to the required strength.


1825 George Stephenson  Stockton & Darlington Locomotion


The opening of the first steam operated public railway in 1825 saw the steam locomotive starting to be accepted as a real alternative to horses. Although the railway was to use horses for haulage two locomotive were ordered on 16th July 1824 at the cost of £600 each from Robert Stephenson & Co. These locomotives followed the basic Killingworth/Hetton design.


Robert Stephenson & Co. had been set up by: George Stephenson (2 shares), Robert Stephenson, George’s son (2 shares), Edward Pease (4 shares), and Michael Longridge (2 shares). The company was established on 23rd June 1823 to manufacture locomotives in its works at Forth Street, Darlington, County Durham.


The boiler for these locomotives was 4 feet in diameter and 10 feet long having a single flue of 18 inches in diameter. The cylinders, set as usual into the top of the boiler, were of 9 inches in diameter with a stroke of 24 inches. A single crank set on the front axle operated the valves for both cylinders. As this gave an angular advance in each running direction it was the first locomotive to have valves with a form of lap and lead.


The drive was via the usual cross beams to crank pins on the wheels. The pistons were kept in line by means of a parallel-motion. Locomotion also has the distinction of being the first locomotive to be fitted with coupling rods. The fitting of these required return-cranks to be fitted to one wheel on each side in order to clear the connecting rod.


'Locomotion' as preserved with later plug wheels.


The locomotive did not have any springing, but the rear axle was carried in a tube, which acted as an axle box. This was pivoted at the centre to allowing the axle to rock thereby giving a three-point suspension. This was a replacement for the steam suspension, which by this time was considered too complex.


The locomotive had four cast iron wheels, each with eight spokes. One of these broke only a few days after the opening of the railway, which resulted in everything having to be hauled by horse. The cast iron wheels were later changed for two-piece cast iron plug wheels.


Locomotion weighed 6.25 tons empty and 7.75 tons full when built.


Locomotion was the first locomotive delivered to the railway in September 1825 and it hauled the opening train on 27th September 1825.


Three further locomotives to this design followed; Hope – November 1825 Black Diamond – April 1826 Diligence – May 1826


Locomotion worked regular on the S & D until 1840. In June1846 it was used for the opening of the Redcar line and from 1850 it was used to pump water at a west Durham colliery where it stayed until 1857 when the Pease family presented it to the Stockton and Darlington Railway for preservation.


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